vacation

Traveling in Style

Very seldom do you hear the words “luxury” and “parenting” in the same sentence. When it comes to my luggage, I have two requirements: a bag that can fit a whole lot of things and still be stylish. For over ten years, Storksak has been making luxury products for parenting. Their entire line of bags are stylish and functional. I cannot wait to use my new Cabin Carry On for our upcoming Austin trip. By far my favorite feature is the smart hanging organizer inside which allows you to pack, hang up, and use without unpacking. I love when good design is also practical!

This combination cabin and carry on bag is the ideal traveling companion when you’re on the go. Its wheeled design allows you to easily switch back and forth between rolling and carrying a comfortable duffle. This bag can hold enough for a weekend getaway with the girls and is also well suited for a business traveler. I am obsessed with their entire line of travel bags, especially this backpack.

If you’re a parent to be needing a hospital bag, this is the ideal one for you. I wish I had this for both of my hospital stays because it would have fit everything we needed and then some. I love the gender neutral colors of grey and black, which make them perfect gifts for your husband, father, or brother. Be sure to check out their Black Friday sale happening today until Monday. A few of my favorites are the unisex Aubrey MessengerJuliette in black, and Lucinda in taupe. These bags can all transition from a diaper bag to a sleek every day bag.

I hope everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving filled with yummy food and loved ones. Have you scored any Black Friday deals yet? 

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The Dwell Hotel, Chattanooga

Before visiting Chattanooga I had researched a few hotels in the area. My husband and I love to stay in boutique hotels when possible because they are usually independently owned and provide more intimacy over a larger chain. The Dwell Hotel is newly renovated and reopened in 2016. It’s the brainchild of Seija Ojanpera, a worldwide traveler with a background in the service industry. The hotel is now head to toe mid-century modern with a touch of old Hollywood glam. 

Conveniently located to several restaurants and Warehouse Row, The Dwell Hotel offers exceptional service, a friendly staff, valet parking and incredible attention to detail. The bright colors and pleasant decor throughout the hotel bring instant happiness.   
Each room is uniquely designed and different. With the original floors and bones of the building still intact, it feels like you’re staying in a bed and breakfast. We stayed in the New Yorker King Balcony Suite which has a sitting area, gas fireplace, downtown views, a soaking tub and a stand alone shower. I immediately fell in love with the bright orange and green colors that filled the room. There was even prosecco waiting for us upon our arrival (it was our anniversary weekend). I spent a good hour soaking in the amazing tub and sipping champagne nearly every day. I loved the overall relaxing vibe from our room. 
Not only were we thrilled with our room and the wonderful service, but the downstairs bar and restaurant were equally as inviting. Matilda Midnight offers several specialty cocktails and appetizers that definitely hit the spot before a night out or as a night cap. I highly recommend the Pommes Frites and Spinach & Goat Cheese Cigars. The Magician craft cocktail definitely caught my eye with melon vodka, honeydew shrub, cocchi rosa and blue curacao. I love that the bar sits so conveniently hidden behind the lobby and gives guests a sense of privacy from the outside. 
Located on the main floor of the Dwell is Terra Mae. With an adorable mix of retro furniture and beautiful paintings, the decor is almost as good as the food. Their menu aims to please and has everything from Belgium Waffles to Pork Cheek Benedict. Brunch at Terra Mae had me wish I was staying another night so I could indulge just one more morning. Another plus side to staying at the Dwell, the amazing breakfast is included in your stay. 
If your travel plans take you to Chattanooga anytime soon, you must stay at The Dwell Hotel. It was by far the highlight of our entire trip and one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever stayed at. I cannot wait to return! 
*Our stay was in partnership with the Dwell Hotel. As always, all opinions expressed are my own*

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Local Eats: Stir, Chattanooga

For our 5th wedding anniversary, my husband and I took a short weekend getaway to Chattanooga. Our first night there we had the privilege of eating at an amazing restaurant called Stir. Located on Market Street, Stir offers modern American eats, craft cocktails and a full Oyster bar. They use farm fresh, local ingredients and make everything from scratch in-house.

Stir is known for their artesianal ice and they demonstrate the process right at your table. The ice melts at a slower pace so your drinks stay colder and stronger for longer. The spherical ice ball maker is so fun to watch in action and if you have kids in your group, they will love it. All of the bartenders are so knowledgable about what they’re serving and really put in the time to make sure each drink is quality. Stir could easily survive as a craft-cocktail establishment. I started off with the Whiskey Bramble (bourbon, cherry amarascata, lemon juice, orange blossom water and sugar can syrup). I could have enjoyed them all night because those flavors together were impressive. My husband stuck with the George Dickel Barrel select and water. The drink menu at Stir is astounding. With over 300+ liquors, wine, and beer to choose from, there is something for everyone.

Our appetizers were the Fried Oysters Casino (bacon, parmesan, green onions, garlic, shallot and butter atop fried oysters) and the Crab Bisque (crab, sherry, basil oil, crostini, celery leaves and micro greens). Even people who don’t like oysters and crab will love these small plates. The bisque was rich, creamy and filling: perfect as a starter and for sharing. And anything with bacon, parmesan, and garlic is a win in my book.
If you’re a long-time reader of my blog, you know that I cannot say no to anything with scallops. Naturally, I chose the Scallop & Shrimp Mac and Cheese (cavatappi pasta, asparagus, and white truffle oil) and was blown away by all the rich flavors. The pasta dish has a generous amount of seafood and the noodles and cheese combination was out of this world. This is one of those recipes where all the ingredients truly mesh well together. I cut up the shrimp and scallops so that each bite had a little bit of everything. If I lived closer to Chattanooga I would have to get this dish once a week. My husband chose the Seared Tuna with kale, bacon, red onion, farro, basil, and sriracha potato crumbles in a citrus soy sauce. Like all their other seafood, the Tuna was fresh and seared nicely. The kale salad was phenomenal and my husband and I are not even huge kale fans. We loved the unique pairings of that dish more than anything else we tried.
If you are local to the Chattanooga area or plan on taking a trip there, do yourself a favor and indulge in Stir for a meal you won’t forget.
*Our meal & drinks were provided by Stir. As always, all opinions expressed are my own*

24 Hours in Athens, GA {with kids}

Last month, we packed up the car and made the short trip to Athens, GA for a quick weekend getaway. This was our first time staying in a hotel with the kids and traveling for the sake of getting away instead of having to make a long drive to see family. We arrived in Athens Friday afternoon and left Sunday morning so it was a pretty short trip, but felt like the right amount of time. We stayed at the Hotel Indigo, which was located right in downtown {full review} and since we visited during the summer, most of the college kids had left so it was pretty laid back.

Friday night we had dinner at Ted’s Most Best. Not only is their pizza divine, but it could not be more kid friendly. There is a huge sandbox right outside on the shaded patio with a ton of toys for kids to play with. My husband and I were actually able to enjoy our dinner since the sandbox entertained the kids. Since we ate there early, we also partook in happy hour, which is basically like Heaven on Earth for parents.

Saturday morning, we headed to Mama’s Boy for breakfast {read my full review here}. Be sure and get there early to beat the line! You will not be disappointed and it really is the best breakfast food in town. After induldging in some delicious southern eats, we ventured to the Sandy Creek Park so the kids could burn off some energy, get some sunshine, and swim before naptime. The playground and park are so well maintained and the kids loved it. Be sure to pack your sunscreem because there is not much shade around the beach.

After washing sand off of everything we own and napping for a few hours, we were craving some margaritas and headed to Taqueria Tsunami. This is basically taco heaven and they have something for everyone. Portion sizes won’t put you into a food coma and they have a kids menu too. We finished our meal and headed to Sanford Stadium to see the grounds and let the kids get out energy, again. Traveling with kids usually goes something like this: food, run, sleep. Repeat 1000 times.

On your way out of town, be sure to stop at Ike & Jane for some of the best donuts you’ll ever taste. If you follow me on Instagram (@chanelvanreenen), you know that donuts are a weekly must for our family. I love tasting new flavors and seeing the designs people come up with.

If you live in the Atlanta area and want to get away with the kids for a weekend, Athens is an amazing place to visit. My husband and I definitely want to come back this Fall for a game when the weather is cooler *fingers crossed*. Can you believe this is the last week of August? I cannot wait for September and cooler temps. We head to Chattanooga in a few weeks for our yearly anniversary trip and could not be more excited. I hope you all had a great weekend. Happy Monday, everyone!

Hotel Indigo, Athens

Last week we took a family trip to Athens, GA and stayed at the beautiful Hotel Indigo. The hotel is centrally located right in downtown Athens and close to nearly everything. Had it not been so hot we probably would have walked everywhere. However, having two kids in tow it just made more sense to drive. This was the kids first time in a hotel and they thought it was the coolest thing ever and would have both been fine staying inside during our entire trip. Since we were visiting in the summer, most of the college kids had gone home so the city was relatively quiet and peaceful. It was almost as if we had the town to ourselves.

We stayed in the jacuzzi suite which is perfect if you are traveling with kids or another couple. The suite has two bedrooms and a spacious living room with a pull out couch, which Henry slept on. There is a huge jacuzzi tub, a separate shower and a double vanity in the bathroom. The toilet is in a separate room with an additional sink which was ideal for us because we put Evelyn’s pack n play in the main bathroom and were still able to use the facilities at night and brush our teeth. 

I love the concrete ceilings and hardwood floors. There is also plenty of windows that let in a ton of natural light and full drapes which totally block out daylight if you’re trying to get a nap in (or in my case, two naps in!) The mini fridge is huge, perfect for bottles of water, orange juice, milk and fruit for the kids. There is a bar sink in the living room by the fridge which is great for rinsing out sippy cups. I also really liked that they provided cans for recycling in the room. You’d be surprised how many plastic bottles we went through. We didn’t get a chance to eat at the hotel restaurant, Madison Bar & Bistro, but it was so welcoming and everything on the menu sounded delicious. The kids loved the outdoor patio space and had they not been with us, my husband and I would have definitely enjoyed a few drinks out there!

Hotel Indigo is perfect for any vacation: a romantic getaway, family weekend, or a place to stay while going to a Bulldogs game. The staff was so friendly, the rooms were spotless, the parking is convenient and you cannot beat the location. We could not have asked for a better first family hotel experience.

*our stay was in partnership with Hotel Indigo. As always, all opinions expressed are my own*

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What’s in my Carry On Bag

Comfortable Travel Bag – This bag from 48 North is extremely durable, large and stylish. It easily sits on my shoulder and proportions the weight out evenly. I gave it a test run a few weeks before traveling to see how I would like it. This bag is my go to for soccer games, the pool and even a weekend road trip. I love how everything is easily accessible, yet also hidden under your arm. {You can save 10% with the code CHANELDISCOUNT2016}

Electronics – I never, ever check valuables. I always bring my computer, camera, cell phone and chargers on the plane with me. I like to do work, watch movies and listen to music. If you’re on an extended plane ride, there will usually be a USB port by your seat so you can charge your phone. Definitely a must if you are on a red eye flight back from Portland stuck in the middle seat and playing candy crush for 5 hours.

Wireless Earphones – I was blown away when I found these amazing earphones online. They are completely cordless which makes moving around with your phone a breeze, especially on a plane when space is limited. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten those long, thin earbud cords tangled around my seatbelt. These are also super stylish and come in assorted colors.

Thieves Spray – Made from Thieves essential oil and distilled water. I use this for everything when traveling (and when I’m not). It’s a natural sanitizer that I spray on airplane armrests, hotel linens, the remote control, public bathrooms etc. Aside from my electronics, it is the most beneficial item I bring with me. It also doubles as a general air freshener.

Face Wipes & Oil Absorbing Papers – I already have oily skin so I don’t wear makeup when flying. The thought of caking a bunch of makeup on for a day of travel makes my face feel heavy. Having face wipes with me can give my skin a little refresher before arriving at the hotel.

Dry Shampoo – This is a no brainer. For the same reasons as above, dry shampoo revives your hair after being in stale airplane air.

Miscellaneous – I found these Sitting Pretty Toilet Seat Covers recently and purchased a bunch. They are such a lifesaver for public restrooms! I also pack tissues, breath mints, lip balm and small sterile alcohol prep pads. I keep all of these small items in this rose gold pencil case.

Did you know that today is National Donut Day? What better way to start your weekend! Happy Friday, friends! xo

*48 North provided me with this bag to assist in my travels. as always, all opinions expressed are my own*

Boston City Guide

In May, my entire family and I had the privilege of visiting Boston together to see my brother graduate from Boston University. We had the best time being together and experiencing the city. My husband and I had never been to Boston before and we were definitely looking forward to a vacation, sans kids. We stayed at the wonderful Godfrey Hotel (full review here) which was right in middle of great attractions. After arriving late Thursday afternoon, we took a cab to our hotel to check in, get our bearings and have a drink before we headed to dinner at Cinquecento (full review here). I was really looking forward to sleeping in for three mornings straight and not having to change diapers and bathe tiny humans. Friday morning we had the BU Commencement ceremony followed by lunch at the Eastern Standard. The food was amazing and the staff was even better. Our waiter was 13th generation Bostonian and so friendly, helpful, patient and funny. Our plates were the perfect size for lunch and we didn’t leave feeling heavy and weighed down. Their cocktails, wine and beer selection were very impressive and I had a delicious cider beer which tasted like champagne (double win).

Dinner was at the incredible Abe & Louie’s steakhouse in Back Bay. This restaurant had an old school charm and the service and attention to detail was impeccable. I wouldn’t have expected anything less, because their reviews online are stellar. Since there were eight of us in our group we were able to try a variety of different items. The dishes that stood out were the Lobster Mac & Cheese, Shrimp & Scallop Louie (pan-seared scallops and shrimp on risotto), 24 oz Bone-In Aged Prime Ribeye and the Potatoes au Gratin. Plus, their dinner rolls were fantastic. Usually I don’t comment on the bread but these were so fluffy and buttery, and with just a hint of sea salt on them,  they seemed to melt in your mouth.

We had a jam packed day planned for Saturday. We started off by walking through the Boston Commons followed by visiting the wonderful Top of the Hub’s Skywalk Observatory, which has an incredible 360-degree panoramic view of Boston and surrounding areas. We were lucky enough to have a tour provided to us and we learned so much about the history of Boston. I definitely recommend checking out the Skywalk Observatory, especially if you have kids in tow because they will love being up so high and seeing all of the city. I know Henry would have gotten such a thrill watching the planes taking off and landing at such a high altitude.

After taking in the city view at the Skywalk, we took a pedicab to the famous Fenway Park to catch a Red Sox game. Little did we know, they were letting fans out onto the field to meet players, take pictures and walk around. It was a truly one of a kind experience that will never forget. As excited I was to be at Fenway Park, I was equally as excited to eat some ballpark food! Part of the whole experience is enjoying some beers, brats and cotton candy. I definitely did not hold back (sorry jeans).

Sunday morning we walked along Newbury Street and ate at the famous Stephanie’s on Newbury. The location is ideal for people watching or having a drink on the patio after an afternoon of shopping. They have a fun Bloody Mary menu where you can customize your drink and add different veggies and vodka. The possibilities are endless and the perfect start to your weekend brunch.

I ordered the Green Chile & Pork Enchilada which was topped with house made enchilada sauce, 2 fried eggs and served with guacamole and salsa verde. I think I scarfed it down in under 5 minutes, it was that good. My husband chose the classic eggs Benedict which was tasty but I think he should have ordered outside the box 🙂 We split the house made Pecan Sticky Bun and let me tell you, if I were a local I would order these in bulk and eat them every morning.

If time would have allowed, we most definitely would have taken the Duck Tour. We saw them everywhere and they looked like a ton of fun. We’ll be looking forward to that on our next trip! Our overall experience in Boston was phenomenal. From our hotel stay, amazing food and beautiful weather, it was an incredible weekend and we can’t wait to return!

 

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